Many have stumbled and erred regarding the nature of Jesus. To some he is a great teacher, one that should stand at the top of the world’s “Top 10” of most influential religious leaders of human existence. They over emphasize his humanity and praise his ethical and moral teachings (e.g. the golden rule).
However, they cannot view him as a wonderful teacher of ethics and morals and at the same time ignore the claims that Jesus makes regarding his divinity. There are various moments in his ministry, where Jesus demonstrates or claims his Divine nature (Phi. 2.5-11; 1 Tim. 3.16).
The Authority of the Son of Man
While Jesus ministered in Galilee, a paralyzed man was dropped down through the roof of a home by his inventive and determined friends for healing (Matt. 9.1-8, Mark 2.1-12). Mark’s text adds that they dug a hole in the roof to bring their friend to Jesus (2.4).
The episode becomes a moment of revelation regarding the authority and divinity of Jesus:
And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18-20)
Forgiveness is probably not what the paralyzed man’s friends expected; after all, they came for healing.
The “scribes and the Pharisees” were offended, for they viewed Jesus’ words as nothing more than a blasphemous scandal: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (5.21). Jesus hijacked, in their view, the Divine prerogative to forgive sins (Exod. 10:17, 32:31-33, Jer. 31:34), and in their eyes committed a capital spiritual crime.
For them, he was just a man. In order to demonstrate his authority “on earth to forgive sins” (5.24), Jesus set forth a challenge (5.23): “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” Obviously, it is “easier” to speak about something you cannot prove empirically; namely, forgiveness.
Consequently, if he can do the “harder” thing which requires an empirical/visible demonstration (“rise and walk”), then he can do the “invisible thing” which is to forgive sins. Luke 5.24 records the words of Jesus: “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home”.
The miracle was immediate (5.25), the crowd was amazed (5.26), and the scribes and the Pharisees received an answer they would never forget – Jesus of Nazareth possesses both the ability and right to forgive sins! Therefore, in this instance, Jesus exercises his privileges showcasing his God-nature. “We have seen extraordinary things today” (5.26).
A Sample of Biblical Passages
The notion that the post-apostolic church “voted”, and therefore “endowed” Jesus with divinity, is completely foreign to the biblical documents. For example, He is prophetically called the “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6), a Hebrew idiom meaning that he has an eternal existence (Micah 5:2; John 1:1; Jackson, Isaiah 25). Jesus is Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:21-23).
Again, the apostle John sets the stage for his Gospel by appealing to the Creation event of Genesis 1.1 where “God created the heavens and the earth”. John 1:1-3 recounts that “the Word” (logos), as “God” (theos), as the agent by which the universe began (1 John 1.1). Becoming human is part of the plan to bring salvation through the cross (Phil. 2:5-10).
Finally, Paul affirms in Colossians 1.17 that in Jesus the universe stands in “perfect equilibrium” (sunistemi). If Jesus is the unifying force of the universe, should we be surprised that Jesus incorporated the miraculous in his ministry? No. In fact, these signs led many to seek him as a “teacher come from God” (John 3.1-2). But he is more than a teacher.
C.S. Lewis and Jesus
We conclude this piece with a look at a passage from C.S. Lewis in his work, Mere Christianity. Lewis goes into considerable length in calling attention to a problem of viewing Jesus as “a great moral teacher” and rejecting “His claim to be God” (53). As Lewis sees it:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said [in his teaching and about himself] would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising [sic] nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that [option] open to us. He did not intend to. (C.S. Lewis, 2001, Mere Christianity, 53; emphasis added)
Lewis offers three basic options when it comes to Jesus: He is either (1) a lunatic, (2) a liar, or (3) the very Lord and God revealed in the documents of the New Testament. In Jesus’ words, he affirms his own claim: “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8.24).
A Concluding Plea
The biblical accounts leave the issue clear that Jesus pre-existed before coming to minister on this soil. From the outside, he looked and lived as a human; but, inwardly and also through demonstrations showed himself to be the Divine Word (John 1.1-3).
So what will you do with Jesus? How will you view his teaching? His claims to Divinity? His claim to be your Redeemer? You will make a decision either way and that decision will ripple its effects in the deepest crevices of your life. Give Him one real, genuine inquiry. He will not disappoint you.
As for me, I will serve Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28). May the Lord bless you in your quest to learn about Jesus and his message, and the salvation that he alone can offer.